(I flew this sentiment past my social media with no uproar, and I’m including it here where it can be referenced for my type transcripts.)
Why the verbatim transcripts?
When taking down other people’s direct words, I acknowledge that though I can usually discern what a person means to say (as a sometime professional editor and copy editor), there are times when someone’s linguistic culture may be different from mine in ways I am totally unaware. At Standing Rock for instance, I can’t spell check native wording. Black language has its own innovations, and I also allow for artistic license. I don’t wish to unwittingly erase other cultures or intentional deviations from standard english.
I recall learning that there have been social traumas around verbatim transcribed quotes in journalism. Some people get the benefit of editor’s polish, while others may be depicted as less eloquent by including the pauses, ticks, and sounds that everybody makes while speaking aloud. This may be extended to include average typewriter proficiency error. This is not my intention. I have done paid transcription work, and I do know how to make spoken language into intelligible text. For other purposes, my methods may be different.
The original, unedited text is in the image, but text in an image isn’t searchable. While I do post group pages on my site in their own time, as part of the service I render by taking first person accounts, I have made searchable text – both possibly as intended, and as-is. Again, because I may be wrong about a name, or a word. Maybe someone wonders if they can find that page where they put their ‘thizz face’ line, but if I edited to their ‘this face’ then their historically recorded specificity has been erased by the clueless. That can extend to names, concepts, anything.
Fidelity may seem more important for some statements in some settings, but again from the historian’s viewpoint, I choose not to weigh the value of recorded statements. A six-year-old saying Hi on the typewriter may be as important as the political manifesto. Oftentimes history is left searching for the ordinary.
By recording what may seem like mistakes or errors in transcription, I am not trying to magnify them. I am instead humbly acknowledging the limits of my own cultural awareness, while embracing the authenticity of the original writer, without judgment and perhaps with some joy of appreciation. Mistakes can be charming, in a world of official accounts polished by the elite. I do create an edited version for easier reading, but I am uneasy about creating only one version altered by my biases, known or unknown, even if having mistakes re-recorded makes some feel self-conscious. I offer an apology to any who may feel disrespected, but I insist on honoring language diversity to the best of my ability.
Do I bother making unedited transcripts of my own typing? No, because I know my own mistakes and intentions, but for others, I do not. My typewriter poetry is a different collaborative practice in which I have some authorship. I claim no sole authorship over collectively typewritten pages, though I may have contributed.
I do not claim to be a real historian, or a journalist in this capacity. This isn’t the same as writing an article, which I have done professionally. I just have a great typewriter that can offer a moment of entertainment and release with a touch of posterity, at times that may be casual or serious. I don’t lay individual claim to this practice; if others want to record first-person accounts on the site of any event with a typewriter, I’ll be pleased to know of it but they don’t require my approval. I generally do not profit from collective typed pages, but the CC0 Creative Commons rights agreement allows anyone to do so. I enjoy seeing people learn a new skill, accept imperfections, have an experience with thought and word, and feel that they have a voice and a place in a record.
[I conducted an email interview with David Wong, aka. Jason Pargin – series author of John Dies At The End, Zoey Ashe, and other novels. This is a writer whose stories I encountered first in the movie John Dies At The End (from the movie rental where I worked), and then encountered the living room legend of how this serialized blog excerpt story became a phenomenon. These questions, excerpted, focused on his experience going from online serialization to print, and how his career evolved.]
“So a publisher picked you up eventually, and then they edited. What was that like, did you and your readers mind the changes much?”
Editing has always been painless for me, but I have no idea if that experience is typical.
Like I’ve actually never had an editor demand changes, it’s always more of a collaborative thing where they explain issues and you kind of work together to figure out the best way to fix them. But I also had some leverage during that process, too. By the time I was working with an editor for the 2009 St. Martin’s release of JDatE, the online version had already gone viral several years before (some 75,000 readers saw it for free online starting around 2000) and I’d self-published and sold a substantial number of print-on-demand copies (something like 6,000). So the one time they did suggest a big change (cutting a certain chapter) I argued that existing fans would see this as an incomplete edition, and would rebel. And those existing fans were the ones we were depending on to build hype for the hardcover release and leave reviews etc. But it wasn’t some huge argument, they suggested it, I explained why I didn’t want to do the change, that was the end of it.
Every other suggestion from the editor was less substantial but always made the book better (pointing out plot or continuity errors, incorrect phrasing, confusing action descriptions, quoting copyrighted song lyrics – stuff you can’t really argue with).
“How many groans were there when they took the serialized story offline? Did you feel like that changed your way of relating to your audience?”
Well, there’s some additional context there. Completely aside from the book, I was a mildly famous blogger starting in the late 90s (not that I made any money from it, but I had a lot of readers and was pretty well known-among other online creators). So I gave my work away for free for years and what you find is that the most passionate fans do feel some sense of entitlement, even when they’re getting all of the content for free (for example, there were constant complaints about the banner ads, even though they barely covered my costs and in no way paid me for my time/work).
I don’t even mean that in a negative way. It’s just the way it is, fans will always demand more, so any change (say, if I switched the publication schedule to be less frequent, or took a few weeks off, or ran something they disagreed with) there would be loud complaints and messages implying that I owed them now, that I needed to make up for my mistake, even though again they’d paid nothing and about a third of them were using ad blockers. They just assumed that because I was so widely read, I was surely getting rich off it thanks to them, and that I thus owed them.
So the angry messages that came from me pulling the free version of the novel offline were there, but those kind of messages are always there – if not about that, then people complaining that the site was slow, or that they were getting error messages on the forum, etc. Often I’d have to pull old articles because something would be broken with the formatting (due to an update to web browsers or Flash version or whatever) and as soon as it came down, a bunch of angry people would claim it was their favorite article and why didn’t I pour hours into fixing it instead.
It doesn’t take many years of that before you kind of grow numb to the complaints. Not that you don’t care or stop listening to feedback, but that you realize that’s just kind of the background noise of your life and you don’t let it cause you stress if you know the change was one you had to make. Complaints are just the noise an audience makes sometimes.
“What has novel publishing been like since, are you still with the same publisher?”
Same publisher, same editor. What happened was the hardcover of JDatE sold pretty well (I earned back my advance in seven days) and then they signed me to do a sequel, which came out right when the movie did in 2012, so the hype/press around the movie put the second book on the NYT bestseller list. After that, the publisher signed me to a multi-book deal for a legitimately huge amount of money. I’m on a schedule where I publish a novel every two years and it takes me every bit of that time to write one, that’s just the speed at which ideas occur to me. Still, I had a full-time job separate from novel writing until early 2020 at Cracked, and had intended to always do that. Things just didn’t work out that way so I’m writing novels full time but that’s not by choice. I assume I’ll get another day job at some point.
“Is serializing something you only did that once, would you again? Why did you serialize in the first place? You were working in insurance, right.”
Here’s where I’m worried my advice might not be relevant in 2022 or, more importantly, to someone trying to start a paid writing career. In the late 90s to early 2000s, I was working two office jobs (doing data entry for an insurance company and filing/billing for a law office, jobs I was just getting through a temp agency) and was blogging on the side with some hopes that I could get popular enough to turn it into a side job via banner ad revenue (that never happened). The first “John Dies at the End” post wasn’t called that, it was just another blog post, one I did for Halloween in I think 2000, a standalone haunted house story in which “David” and his friend investigate a haunting and get chased around by meat.
Back then, the blog was just any kind of humor essay I felt like writing, sometimes reviews or fake news stories, other times comedic narratives starring David and John. So this Halloween post wasn’t out of character, occasionally I’d just have a funny story starring these two guys, and the format of the site was that each story would start off with some kind of normal setup and then wind up somewhere extremely stupid.
That next Halloween, leading up to the holiday people started asking when the “sequel” to the previous year’s scary post would be up, and that was the first time I realized I was going to have to write another one. So those stories became an annual Halloween tradition until I wound up with something novel-length. Then in 2005 or so I put them all together with their own navigation and section of the site, and heavily edited the whole thing, going back and retconning changes and adding foreshadowing to events I wrote later, so that it all appeared to be on purpose. It was written over the course of five years and those posts were basically my fiction writing school; I’d barely done it before that. I think I’d written a total of two short stories in my entire life prior to 1999. But I’d written plenty of silly fiction as part of the blog.
But I can’t make this clear enough: I never aspired to be a full time novelist, and actually never thought I’d like doing that as a job. I have never shopped for an agent or publisher, I literally don’t know what that process looks like. I’ve never researched the industry to find out what’s hot or what genres are selling, I’ve never kept up with trends or looked into the best ways to get a foot in the door, it all just happened to me mostly on accident (more on that later).
“I was super happy for you to hear that you were subsequently hired to write for Cracked, and it looks like your career continues smoothly.”
Yeah I got the Cracked job in 2007 but that was due to a whole bunch of good luck and circumstance (there were more famous writers up for the job, but I was friends with the guy who had it before me and his reference went a long way). It was absolutely a dream job that any friend of mine would kill to have (working from home writing blog posts full time, with benefits). But when I got hired, I assumed it wouldn’t last more than 1-2 years, dotcom startups had a bad reputation for flaming out and I was taking a huge risk by taking the Cracked job and quitting my much more secure insurance job. My rationale was that if nothing else, it would build my resume and allow me to get other writing jobs in the future.
Instead, it was a huge success for the first several years. Then around 2014 the industry started to change and in 2017 the site was sold to a new company, who fired pretty much the entire staff (aside from me) less than a year later. But we were always understaffed, I think I averaged 100 hours a week for five straight years, putting in at least some hours on every single weekend, holiday and sick day.
I held on until 2020 but it was a steady process of budget cuts and layoffs and constantly feeling like every day would be my last. I left in early 2020 because they basically eliminated my position and I just didn’t feel like pivoting to a new one, because at that point the years of stress had taken a massive toll on my health (I still need medication to digest food normally). I only recently stopped having stress dreams that I’d overslept and missed some important meeting or deadline.
“Do you now find it easy to write a book in secret and release it the traditional way, now that you have industry support?”
The industry support is great, but that extends to them working with bookstores to make sure the book gets stocked, and doing some of the promotion. The rest of the promotion is up to me, and it’s literally a full time job (this is true of any author). In order to maintain a network of connected readers I can announce books to, I maintain three Facebook pages, a Twitter, an Instagram, a Mailchimp newsletter, a Substack blog/newsletter, a Goodreads page, a website and a YouTube account:
I also write guest columns on other sites, again the main benefit is to get the book order links out there:
The video trailers I release for my books are arranged entirely on my end, for the last Zoey book I hired a production company here in town, writing the script myself, approving every aspect of the production down to the props, and paying for every bit of it out-of-pocket:
For each book, I’ll spend about $20,000-$25,000 of my own money on promotion, plus several thousand hours of my own labor in updating socials or doing guest posts. So the industry support is amazing, I know every author would kill for it, but I can’t emphasize enough that my life is 80% publicity/promotion and 20% book writing.
“Is serializing something you only did that once, would you again?”
Well the issue is that I don’t actually write my novels in order, I do an outline and frequently skip ahead to write some part I feel more like working on that day. The process of circling back to change the beginning (to add foreshadowing or to set up payoffs) continues right up to the end of the editing process. So the only way I’d release something in serial form today is if I wrote and edited the entire thing, and then released it a chunk at a time. And at the moment I don’t know that there’d be any advantage to that. But if I was starting my career new, I might consider it (but even then would probably release it primarily as an audiobook or podcast, with the text version as like a bonus for those who prefer it).
[ELE / Eva L. Elasigue CC-BY 4.0 Creative Commons]
This poem contains a lot of factors! I designed the process to accompany a multi-scene group performance across two outdoor stages. The show had its own storyline of wizards arguing with duendes (elven spirits) over the beauty or tragedy of humanity as examined through the lens of four elements. The alien in mention is a character that descended at the beginning, though assigning the wizard or the alien to either language has its own reflections of meaning, and it could be read aloud that way. Myself coming from the United States, there is a tension around the Spanish language and its association with the idea of being an alien – whereas I was the English-speaking alien in the Spanish-speaking country of Nicaragua.
I, the poet, entered as a wizard dancer with the others at the beginning, in Jedi attire with a lightsaber-like pen (of course, mightier than the lightsaber) and notebook. I accompanied the show in the audience, writing to the scenes while glowing. I also helped guide and direct the audience from stage to stage, dancing martial arts with my glowing pen while in movement. Two words to a notebook page was the format I decided would suit the fast pace of performance and the show dynamic, with words in English and Spanish for a bilingual audience. The poem as displayed was written in order.
Parts of these freshly-penned poems were sung in live improvisation, by me, with music by each of the three DJs who played after the show: Izzy Wise @izzy_wise , Danni G @dannig , and Ricardo @irickysaenz .
I played with form as I wrote, differently for each scene, and am including, below, the notebook pages where I broke down the juxtaposition and stanza-mirroring of English and Spanish, in sometimes-reversed sometimes-translation. I tightened or accented my Spanish as I’ve recopied it.
I have not seen the form employed or explained before; consider this invented wordpair flow as a formal offering for live inspiration. It can evoke a lot, two words at a time, and while able to offer beauty as itself, can serve as a base for further expansion. I reserve the option of expanding from this poem, while also sharing it in its primal form.
Formplay Observation below, marks explained after maps
This type station existed for two outdoor full moon ceremonies at my Nicaragua residency, and it was a standing invite to collaboratively create a line of poetry. The main prompt was to go back and forth between myself and the guest, adding one word at a time, though this could be flexibly applied. These lines are signed collaboratively, and are shared here under a CC-BY 4.0 Creative Commons license. I later created aesthetic line breaks and punctuation.
Magic transition openness
anticipation love gift
(Jeff R. & ELE)
Water deep inside welling, it rises into fountains
(Tuulia & ELE)
Bursting into relation, rising together in support
(T & Tony contact dance words from ELE)
Fuerte la luz sexual de la luna llena tranquilo
(Fenix y ELE)
Stillness centered begins through a place of grounding
(Sophia & ELE)
Grateful seeing you shining tonight within me, I am here – heartbeat yearning
I want to worry about these kids, but they won’t let me. They could kill me. They’re alright, even when they’re really not. It gets a little wrong: working as intended. #deadlyclass @Remender #comics #review
I guess I was finally ready for this. Ready for my notions to be disabused and then magically rebuilt. For the disillusionment to turn back around on itself into another fulfillment, breaking expectations in order to deliver. Life’s complicated. There’s the human perspective, which can’t be abated for meta-awareness because that’s what it’s built on. Frank Herbert, people. Dealing with the hard stuff. It’s still so beautiful while it’s so dark, beautiful in its otherness. Science fiction.
It’s a dadaist philosophical ramble that lovingly reshuffles all idols and ideals with a slew of good laughs and intense abyssal gazes. An artistically faithful reproduction of a legendary underground primer & zine art classic. I traded a poetry broadsheet for my copy at Barter Faire. Mmmmmmmm. This edition via Last Word Press.
Yesterday, the day that the great poet Mary Oliver passed away, I finally hung a sign for Primal Spiral Studio: a snapped wooden rudder I found on the beach, painted and stenciled in ‘old school scholastic’. Here’s hoping any intrepid boaters made it to shore, as did their rudder.